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A concerned member of the human race

Sunday, June 15, 2014

One of My Letters to an Editor

How Many Great Teachers do They Think will Want to Work in their Overcrowded, Underfunded Schools Without Tenure?
How Many will Want to be Blamed and Fired for the Low Test Scores of Students in their Community?

To the Editorial Staff:

In the editorial entitled "Stand firm for evaluating NYC teachers," I find yet another example of the teachers who serve society serving as society's scapegoat.  I am a teacher of twenty years.  I graduated among the top of my class.  My first semester teaching, I may have appeared "grossly ineffective" in my assigned school.  Some students would not heed kindly admonitions to sit down or stop talking.  I contemplated leaving the profession.  I was "excessed" to a better City school.  Suddenly, overnight, I became, relatively speaking, highly effective. 

In a current system that places faith in test-based accountability, if teachers lack the due-process rights granted by tenure, many will flee to the suburbs for far higher pay in neighborhoods in which students buy into the system.  Teachers who  remain to help the neediest children will become martyrs to their good intentions.  Many City students do not speak English, require extra school services or struggle with disabilities.  Some students have trouble coming to school, staying seated when present or reining in their short fuse.  Many of these students fail to buy into the system.  They do not see school as a way out.  Some students do well in class, but fail to return a single homework or study outside the perimeters of the building.  Parental contact usually has little to no effect. 

Schools with the greatest incidences of impoverished minority students actually have relatively few tenured teachers.  Due to extremely difficult conditions, these schools cannot retain a stable workforce.  After all, who, in his or her right mind would try to build a career teaching in an overcrowded, underfunded school, subject to closure due to the inability of students to do well on standardized tests? 

Tenure does not guarantee lifetime employment.  If one has effective administrators, they effectively refuse tenure to those unfit for the classroom.  In New York, there is a three-year period in which to do so.  Tenure does not mean that ineffective teachers cannot be removed.  It only guarantees teachers due-process rights. 

Tenure protects academic freedom.  Tenure prevents principals from using their schools as huge patronage systems.  Tenure allows teachers to offer suggestions and "blow the whistle" with less fear of reprisal.   Tenure releases teachers from the pressure of producing grades to meet the expectations of a current administration.  Tenure protects teachers from false accusations which may be hurled by teenagers disappointed by their grades.  Tenure protects teachers from vindictive administrators.  Tenure protects teachers who try to help students who may not make the grade on standardized tests.  Tenure protects many teachers from becoming many martyrs.   

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